Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's new Access All Areas campaign aims to remind businesses and the community that a person with their Guide Dog in harness is legally allowed to enter all public places.
Public places include, shops and supermarkets, cafes and restaurants, pubs and clubs, hotels and motels, hospitals, medical practices and dental surgeries. Guide Dogs can also travel on all forms of public transport, as well as taxis and rideshares, and planes.
It is an offence to deny or charge a fee for the entry of a person with their Guide Dog. NSW Police officers can issue on-the-spot fines of $165 and penalty notices of up to $1100 for refusing entry to a Guide Dog handler.
While the public generally do the right thing, Guide Dog handlers continue to face many barriers when going about their daily lives.
Being refused entry can leave Guide Dog handlers seriously inconvenienced - arriving late, missing out on events completely, or incurring cancellation/late fees.
Many handlers tell us they have changed their routines or avoid trouble areas and certain businesses as a result of refusals. On a personal level, it leaves them feeling frustrated, angry, upset and humiliated, especially when in groups of friends.
Guide Dogs are not pets. They are highly trained to open up the world for people who have sight loss, not close it down, which is effectively what denying access does.
Guide Dog handlers should not be refused access to locations and services because of the very dog that is there to help them lead an independent life.
For more information on Guide Dog access, visit www.guidedogs.com.au